Sacred wood for stress? Springwood man shares Peruvian culture on new TV show Medicine or Myth

Could an ancient Peruvian remedy help reduce anxiety? Herman Ortiz thinks so.

Hailing from a town in the Amazon rainforest, Mr Ortiz and his family have called Springwood home for the past three years.

Sharing his culture is important to him, so when he was given the opportunity to address a national audience, he jumped at the chance.

Mr Ortiz is part of the new SBS TV series called Medicine or Myth? where everyday Australians pitch their diverse and sometimes divisive health remedies to a panel of medical experts in the hope of being selected for a real-world trial.

Mr Ortiz presents Palo Santo - sacred wood - that when dried and burned creates a smoke which he says aids relaxation and alleviates stress.

The ancient Peruvian remedy involves drying the wood of the South American bursera graveolens tree for six years, and then burning pieces of the wood, which gives off an aroma, akin to incense.

The 51-year-old recalls his grandmother using Palo Santo when he was a child.

"I remember the smell at home. It's very familiar. My mother or grandmother was using it - my grandmother was a local healer," he said.

"She would also use it to cleanse and welcome a new being [birth of a baby] into the world."

There wasn't access to doctors or a hospital, so the people relied on natural remedies passed down the generations.

"That knowledge that I got in the Amazon, it's now my job to pass to other people," Mr Ortiz said.

Mr Ortiz has lived in Australia for 20 years, leaving Peru as a teenager when he was forced to choose between supporting extremists guerrillas and the army. He earned a scholarship to study engineering in the former Soviet Union, and went on to live in the UK. In his 40s, he went through a difficult patch and experiencing anxiety and depression and missing his family, he returned to Peru and his grandmother brought out the natural medicine.

"We need a balance between medicine and natural medicine. I feel that I need to show the world there are other alternatives where I live and where I'm from," Mr Ortiz said.

Medicine or Myth? premieres on Monday, May 20 at 8.30pm on SBS. Mr Ortiz presents his case in the eighth episode.

The debut episode explores seven proposed home remedies, including ear wax as a cure for cold sores, seahorse for asthma, charcoal for stings and bites, menstrual blood for period pain, and a fever bath for colds and flu.

The weekly program is hosted by journalist Jan Fran, and the medical panel consists of renowned neurosurgeon Dr Charlie Teo, family and women's health expert Dr Ginni Mansberg and Associate Professor in Immunology, Ashraful Haque.

Comments